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Lillian E. Blancas, a widely respected lawyer in El Paso, always wanted to be a judge. She was expected to achieve her goal on Saturday in a runoff election, in which she was the favorite.
Ms. Blancas died at a hospital in the city on Monday. She was 47. The cause was Covid-19, her brother Moises Blancas said.
Ms. Blancas, was an assistant district attorney and public defender for nearly a decade before she opened her own law firm in 2019, came in first in a field of three on Nov. 3 in the race for an open seat in El Paso’s municipal court. Because she did not win a majority of the votes, the race went to an automatic runoff.
Her death came too late to remove her name from the ballot. If she wins, the City Council would appoint a replacement.
Ms. Blancas was known as much for her tireless work on the part of indigent defendants as she was for her wit and charm, inside and outside the courtroom.
Among her many friends, who called her Lila, was her opponent in the runoff, Enrique A. Holguin, who met her in 2013 when he joined the district attorney’s office. She helped mentor him.
“She was a straight shooter, very professional, but always polite,” Mr. Holguin said. “When we were on opposite sides of a case, we never locked horns.”